The Internet & Freedom Of The Press

Internet freedom is the right to use the net without restriction, censorship, or enforced bias. The more digital liberties you can act on in your country, the more Internet freedom you have. No country is 100% free. Some restrictions, like preventing the spread of illegal content or protecting classified information appear justifiable, but most governments around the world have more or less restrictive regimes.

In 2021, Iceland ranked first in terms of Internet freedom worldwide. The country placed first with 96 index points on the Freedom House Index and by this measure Iceland is the world’s best protector of Internet freedom

Internet users in Iceland enjoy near-universal connectivity, minimal restrictions on online content, and strong protections for their rights online. The next in the top list that allow Internet freedom are Estonia and then Canada, Germany and the UK, next is France, Georgia, Italy, Japan, Australia, the USA and South Africa.

It is Russia which is the latest country to try to find ways to police its online borders, sparking the end of the Internet as we know it.

The history of countries' media restrictions goes back to 1648 when the Treaty of Westphalia was signed, ending 30 years of war across Europe and bringing about the sovereignty of states. The rights of states to control and defend their own territory became the core foundation of our global political order, and it has remained unchallenged since.

In 2010, a delegation of countries, including Syria and Russia, came to a little-known agency of the United Nations with a strange request: to define those same sovereign geographic borders onto the digital world. Today, Eritrea and North Korea are the first and second most censored countries worldwide, according to a list compiled by the press freedom charity, Committee to Protect Journalists of the 10 countries where the press is most restricted.

The list is based on research into the use of tactics ranging from imprisonment and repressive laws to harassment of journalists and restrictions on Internet access.

In Eritrea, President Isaias Afewerki has succeeded in his campaign to crush independent journalism, creating a media climate so oppressive that even reporters for state-run news outlets live in constant fear of arrest. The threat of imprisonment has led many journalists to choose exile rather than risk arrest. Eritrea is Africa’s worst jailer of journalists, with at least 23 behind bars-none of whom has been tried in court or even charged with a crime.

Fearing the spread of Arab Spring uprisings, Eritrea scrapped plans in 2011 to provide mobile Internet for its citizens, limiting the possibility of access to independent information. Although the Internet is available, it is through slow dial-up connections, and fewer than 1 percent of the population goes online, according to the UN International Telecommunications Union figures.

Eritrea also has the lowest figure globally of cell phone users, with just 5.6 percent of the population owning one. In North Korea, 9.7 percent of the population has cell phones, a number that excludes access to phones smuggled in from China. In place of the global Internet, to which only a select few powerful individuals have access, some schools and other institutions have access to a tightly controlled intranet. Despite the arrival of an Associated Press bureau in Pyongyang in 2012, the state has such a tight grip on the news agenda that news footage was re-edited to remove Kim Jong Un’s disgraced uncle from the archives after his execution.

The tactics used by Eritrea and North Korea are mirrored to varying degrees in other heavily censored countries. To keep their grip on power, repressive regimes use a combination of media monopoly, harassment, spying, threats of journalist imprisonment, and restriction of journalists’ entry into or movements within their countries.

  • China, despite having hundreds of millions of Internet users, maintains the Great Firewall a sophisticated blend of human censors and technological tools, to block critical websites and rein in social media.

In countries with advanced technology such as China, Internet restrictions are combined with the threat of imprisonment to ensure that critical voices cannot be heard online.

Yet there is no doubt that access to the Internet, for those who can regularly go online in China, has had a profound impact on how people view the news and their government, and how they respond to injustices in their day-to-day lives.

Already, before the new leadership even took the helm, the public knew far more about their new leaders than they have at any time in the past, information that censors have fought hard to keep hidden.

It’s well known that some countries are unhappy with the Western consensus that has traditionally held sway over Internet governance. It’s not just the philosophies espoused by the West that troubles them, but the way those philosophies were baked into the very architecture of the Internet, which is famously engineered to ensure no one can prevent anyone from sending anything to anyone.

CPJ:     Privacy Hub:     BBC:    The Street:     Statista:    Quora:   Security:  

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